USC officials: Assembly Street project on schedule

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Changes to Assembly Street are in full swing in downtown Columbia, and officials with the University of South Carolina say the multi-million dollar project is on schedule.

USC is leading the partnership project with the goal of making Assembly Street from Pendleton to Blossom streets safer for pedestrians.

Construction began in early April, and USC's Director of Communications Wes Hickman says construction crews have already finished the majority of the sidewalk widening on the west side of Assembly Street. Hickman says the intersection of Assembly St. and Blossom has not been completed because the University wanted to wait until high school graduations and freshman orientations were complete.

Hickman adds the project will be completed in phases moving from the west sidewalk, to the median and finishing with the east sidewalk.

During that time, Hickman says drivers may notice shifting lanes. "The goal is to maintain all three lanes on both sides of Assembly Street throughout the duration of the rest of the project," said Hickman. "As a result you have to have a little bit of the shifting lanes here and then back, but that's the goal is to keep all three lanes open both north and southbound."

Parking spots next to the median and the sidewalks have been removed for a few weeks now, and officials with USC say only part of the parking will return when all is said and done.

"For construction purposes we had to remove parking in both places, but the parallel parking will not come back on the medians," said Hickman. "That's so we can expand the size of the median, increase pedestrian safe zones and make it safe for people to cross Assembly Street."

The construction zone passes directly in front of the new Darla Moore School of Business which will officially open in December. Foot traffic is expected to triple with 12,000 more students expected to cross Assembly St. daily.

USC officials are also hoping the construction will beautify the downtown. They recently released images of what the project will look like once the streetscape is complete.

The project is expected to be finished by the end of the year, around the time when the new business school opens. Until then, officials ask drivers to be extra alert when driving or walking in the Assembly Street area.

The construction project is a partnership between USC, SCDOT, the Central Midlands Council of governments, the County Transportation Committee, the Federal Transit Administration and the City of Columbia. The total estimate for the project is 4.6 million dollars and is being split between university and federal funds.

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